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School of Chemistry research named as a World Changing Idea

19 November 2015

Fundamental research carried out into how chemical reactions happen in a liquid has been recognised as a World Changing Idea by Scientific American, the US’s leading popular science magazine.

The research, which uses infrared spectroscopy and computer simulations to reveal the hidden world of solvent-solute interactions, is one of ten big advances made this year that, the magazine believes, will improve life, transform computing and maybe even save the planet.  All ten advances are described in an In-Depth report, World Changing Ideas 2015, published this week.

Professor Andrew Orr-Ewing and former Bristol PhD student Greg Dunning used lasers to observing the picosecond-timescale details of reactions in liquids.  Their colleagues Dr David Glowacki and Professor Jeremy Harvey then wrote simulation software that could predict the results of these spectroscopy experiments with extraordinary accuracy.

Together the experiments and simulations provide the best insights so far into how a chemical reaction actually happens in a liquid, Scientific American said.

The Bristol team’s methods are now being incorporated into computer simulations for academic and industrial use which could ultimately benefit disease research, drug development and ecological studies, the magazine reported.

The research was carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and Heriot-Watt University (HWU).

Scientific American is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States.  Many famous scientists, including Albert Einstein, have contributed articles to it in the past 170 years.

Further information


‘Vibrational relaxation and micro-solvation of DF after F-atom reactions in polar solvents’ by G.T. Dunning, D.R. Glowacki, T.J. Preston, S.J. Greaves, G.M. Greetham, I.P. Clark, M. Towrie, J.N. Harvey and A.J. Orr-Ewing in Science, volume 347, pages 530-533 (2015).

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